I am writing this post from a coffee shop in Quezon City (Manila, Philippines) from my 3G connection that gives me a fair 1.5Mbps up/down for a bit less than 1 euro per day. (just for you to know the context)
Long before moving to Manila (Philippines) I have had wanted to get my hands on the Huawei e5 for its capability to turn a 3G connection into a wifi hotspot. I had tried to find it in Europe (France, UK, Romania…) and in the USA (Los Angeles, New York City), but now way to find any. Actually, that device seems to be available only in Asia (or online, but as I was going to the Philippines soon, I could wait).
Basically, what the Huawei e5 does, is to turn your 3G connection into a WIFI hotspot where you can connect up to 5 devices. There is also a USB port that allows you to connect another computer like any USB modem. So you can in the end connect up to 6 devices.
I bought a second hand e5 for 5 000 pesos (around 65 euros) because it is unlocked and I can use it with any operator in any country. I also bought 3 prepaid SIM cards from the 3 operators here to see which one works the best in my area (around 2 euros per SIM card with 24 hours mobile Internet each).
What I like with the Huawei e5 is that you can put any SIM card inside, and the device will automatically detect the network settings and get you online. It’s also plug’n’play when I connect it to my Macbook Pro. I haven’t tried on Windows but I bet it works easily also. There is a web interface (accessible at the device IP address which is 192.168.1.1 by default) where you can edit the settings of the wifi network (SSID, security settings…), monitor the network speed, and even read and send SMS. The latter one is quite useful, as if you are using a prepaid SIM card like me, you need to send a text to the operator to reload your credit, and use your credit to order packages when needed (unlimited 3G for 5 days for 200 pesos, unlimited texts for 1 day for 20 pesos, etc…).
My battery seems to last around 5 hours (it’s a second hand device, so I could have expected low battery performances…) but I usually plug the USB cable to my laptop when I use it, so the battery is always charging up. And when I am not staying somewhere, I put it in my pocket and can still be online from my iPhone anywhere in the city (and so for my mates who are walking besides me).
If you are a nomad like me and like to be online everywhere, this device is for you (or there are equivalents from other brands, but still, I could find them only in Asia so far). Even if you just stay in your European country and like to have a 3G connection on your laptop without paying the option for Internet tethering (in France, it costs like 10 euros per month for that option on an iPhone), that device is also for you!
Here is a picture of my workspace right now, where my laptop, my French iPhone and my local Samsung mobile are all getting online from the only 3G connection shared by the Huawei e5. As you can see, it’s quite convenient and it can save you a bunch of money